AG Derek Schmidt Testifies On Emergency Management Act

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt urged lawmakers to look closer into Kansas disaster emergency law to clarify constitutional authority, separation of powers, and deal with issues of a governor acting during a crisis and of local government officials ignoring a governor’s order.

The Reflector reports that Schmidt told a joint committee of the House and Senate during a hearing that the Kansas Emergency Management Act had worked well for years when applied to tornadoes, drought, floods, and prairie fires.

However, the legal framework is proving inadequate to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Schmidt says that a combination of geographic scope, duration, and intrusiveness of emergency orders issued under its authority, concerns, gaps, and shortcomings in the Act have come up that should be addressed by the Legislature.

Schmidt said one of his main concerns was the Legislature nearly handing over legislative power to the executive branch.

Another issue is whether local law enforcement should be held responsible for enforcing a governor’s executive order, he said.

He recommended the Legislature consider an amendment to the Kansas Constitution to solidify boundaries of government action during a disaster emergency.